Disclaimer: I do not own anything publicly recognisable. Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer and real people belong to themselves.
Chapter 30: BPOV
"We have to talk," I said finally thirty minutes after I had closed the door to my apartment. I was breathless, flushed, still wedged in between the wooden door and Edward, my lips swollen and just a little bit sore, but in a very good way. A very good way indeed.
I felt Edward's head moving up and down from where it was laying between my shoulder and my chest; we were having another small breather due to oxygen issues. It was a shame that in the age of technological advancements that we were living in, no one had thought to solve this. "Talk," he mumbled, the words vibrating through me instead of actually being carried by particles of air.
I leant back minutely to get away from him because I was already as far back as the solid wood would allow and I didn't have the will to push him off, but we really did need to talk. "Edward," I tried to insist, but my voice was a little too much like a moan for him to take a hint and move away from me so that we could both clear our heads and have a conversation that didn't just involved noises.
Apparently, Edward understood what my brain was trying to communicate, but what my body was completely rebelling against and he finally pulled far enough away from me so that I couldn't just reach over and grab him back. We locked eyes for a moment, knowing that the time for letting ourselves just express what we felt for once was over and now it was time to talk about it all. Now it was time to talk about what the hell any of this meant and why it was that suddenly we couldn't be within a foot of each other alone without wanting to fuse ourselves together.
I listened as Edward cleared his throat and noticed how he was now running his hands through his hair because it had been messed up by my own very insistent appendages. I was filled with the urge to grab his hand to stop him from doing it, but I was pretty sure that if I touched him right now there would be no talking being done, only a whole hell of a lot of something else that I didn't think either one of us was ready for. Well maybe we were ready for certain aspects of that something else (or maybe I was just speaking for myself), but neither of us were ready for the consequences that would inevitably erupt.
"Sorry about, er..." Edward trailed off and looked up, but he wasn't looking at me. Instead he was looking at the door behind me and doing some sort of forward motion with his hands. After looking at him like he was speaking a foreign language for a couple of seconds, I suddenly realised that he was apologising for pushing me against the door, rather forcefully actually. I wanted to laugh and tell him that if he hadn't done it first, it would have probably been him pressed up rather intimately against the wooden object. However, Edward wasn't the only one having difficulty finding the right words now that our mouths were actually free to form them.
So instead of saying anything, I just nodded and bit my lip, unsure of why this was suddenly so uncomfortable. I didn't know what to do with myself; didn't know where to look or what to say. That was probably the most frustrating part – the fact that we'd both stopped doing what we'd been doing to talk and now both of us were having difficulty stringing together a more than a couple of words. Edward couldn't seem to stop alternately running his hands through his hair or over his face, looking as if he wanted to be anywhere but here at this very moment in time. I would have been a little hurt at this had I not been feeling exactly the same way. It wasn't like I didn't want to be with Edward, but I wanted to get as far away from this stiflingly awkward atmosphere as I possibly could.
"Do you want a beer?" I asked after a few more minutes of me chewing my lip to the point where the soreness was no longer such a good thing because it was self-inflicted.
"Yeah," Edward said in a rush, answering almost before I could even finish the question.
I walked past him into the kitchen, making sure that I kept enough of a distance as I walked around him so that I wouldn't accidentally brush against him. I could still feel the way his hands gripped my hip as he tried to both push me further into the door and pull me closer into him. I shook my head clear as I neared the fridge; I shouldn't be thinking about how Edward's bare skin felt on mine or about how much more forceful he was when he was Edward instead of Robert. What I should have been doing was trying to find a way to approach the forthcoming conversation without it seeming too damn forced or awkward or just absolutely horrifying.
I handed Edward the beer (again taking care not to touch him) and led him to the lounge area where we sat on opposite sides of the coffee table, quietly sipping our beers and looking around the room, as if following a very rapidly moving particle of dust. The tension between us was so much worse than it had been on the walk from my trailer to the set and so much worse than it had been even between takes. I guess this afternoon even though I could barely look at Edward without getting a flash of what his lips felt like as they moved in tandem with mine, I could force my mind to focus on something else. I was, after all, nothing if not a complete professional – we both were – and whatever may have happened between us when we'd been on our own, we still had a job to do. Now, however, the only thing we had to do was talk about the fact that we were now apparently making out even when we weren't in character.
"Rosalie would be laughing her arse off my now," Edward commented, his rather soft voice being amplified by the sheer silence around and between us. I smiled at his English pronunciation of the word 'arse' even though I was rather confused as to why that would be the first sentence that he'd completed without stuttering or stammering or running his hands through his hair since I'd bumped into him on the stairwell.
"Am I supposed to get why?" I asked after he didn't offer anything further. He still wasn't looking directly at me, but his eyes had stopped moving to fix onto a spot just beyond my left shoulder.
Edward once again exhaled quickly and deeply. "Well about two minutes ago we couldn't keep our hands off each other and now we can barely look at each other," he mumbled quickly. "She'd find that very entertaining."
Yes, she would. In truth, I would have found a situation like this very entertaining also – had I not been in it myself. I could see how utterly preposterous it was for me to be embarrassed about talking about this with Edward because like he'd said, I wasn't exactly embarrassed two minutes ago when my tongue had been tickling the roof of his mouth. Nor was I embarrassed when I'd moaned into him as he nibbled softly on my top lip. Being bashful certainly wasn't at the forefront of my mind when I'd fisted his shirt in my hands and jerked him closer to me, willing him to press his weight fully into me so every part of my body could be in contact with every part of his, even if we were both clothed at the time. No, I certainly wasn't shy or self-conscious then, but the thought of having this discussion with Edward made me feel like I was having the birds and bees talk with my mother.
I put my more than half empty bottle onto the coffee table in front of me and looked at it, long and hard, pretending I was directing my words at it instead of the man sitting across from me. "I've just never been in this situation before," I told the bottle quietly. "It's never been like this for me."
"Yeah," Edward agreed quietly. I heard his set down his own bottle, but he was turning it around instead of just staring at it like I was. "Me neither."
I was 100% sure that Edward and I were not talking about the same thing because of the fact that I was talking about my situation with Edward being absolutely nothing like my situation with Jacob. When I'd said 'it's never been like this for me', I wasn't talking about how the physicality of our...whatever was new. I was talking about how my relationship with Jacob was the only one I'd ever had (serious or otherwise) and how it had started off in a completely different manner. Jacob and I had done the whole shy teenage thing where we'd go on a date that was chaperoned very begrudgingly (on both mine and his part) by Sam and he'd spend the entire night trying to find a way to put his arm around me. I knew Jacob wanted to be in a relationship with me before we even got close to being in one. We'd never had to really talk at the beginning of it all; it was just a given that he liked me, wanted to date me and I liked him so we dated. It was filled with the awkwardness of being fifteen and never having had a boyfriend before, but it wasn't filled with uncertainty.
This situation, on the other hand, was all about uncertainty. I didn't know what Edward wanted from me and what was more frustrating was that I didn't really know what I wanted from him. I mean I wanted him – goodness knows the past 35 minutes were enough to drive that point home – but I didn't know what that meant. After all, there was still the small technicality that I hadn't actually broken up with my aforementioned longterm boyfriend yet. Did I even want to do that? Did Edward want me to do that? Why the hell wasn't either one of us just saying some of the questions out loud? If there were so many in my head, there must have been at least a fraction of the amount in his, right?
Maybe, like me, he just didn't know where the hell to start. I wanted to know what this was between us, but Edward probably had just as much of a clue as I did. I wanted to know what today meant for the two of us and our already confusing relationship, but it was unfair of me to ask him for answers that I couldn't give him back if he turned around and asked the same questions of me. The truth of the matter was that it should have been Edward who was firing rapid questions at me because he was the one with a relatively uncomplicated life – or at least on the romantic front. Edward was single and free to kiss whomever he chose to, whilst I was less...single and free, that is.
And yet it didn't stop me from attempting to devour him minutes before.
And it certainly didn't stop me from wanting to do it again.
Oh god, I needed to learn how to rein in my own thoughts.
After the longest silence in the history of the world (I'm an actress, it's my job to be dramatic), Edward finally looked up at me and met my eyes. "I like you Bella," he said swiftly and quietly, but his voice was crystal clear. "I'm aware that I probably sound like a teenage girl right now, but just so we're clear, I like you. And I don't just mean I like spending time with you or that I like working with you, which I do by the way," he added quickly, his eyes widening a little as he realised that his words could have been taken as a veiled insult. I couldn't stop the smile that tugged at my lips at his panic. Edward grinned back at me.
"It's just that I've been trying to stop myself from being attracted to you for what feels like since I've known you and now that...well, now that some, er...now that we've...just that because we, um-"
"Yeah, I've got it Edward," I interrupt him, finding it incredibly adorable that he couldn't find words to describe what we'd been doing even though he was incredibly proficient at the act itself.
Edward sagged with relief that I let him off the hook. Honestly, looking at him now, so unsure of himself and stumbling over his words, was like looking at a completely different person. He looked and sounded like the Edward that had bitten my bottom lip rather sharply before soothing it again with little flickers of his tongue, but his entire demeanour was different. It was baffling, but it was just another piece of Edward Cullen that was being revealed to me and I kind of liked it, just like I liked the rest of the pieces that I had already seen. Edward was intriguing in ways I didn't even know people could be intriguing because even though he didn't make a conscious effort to hide himself from people, there was still so much beneath the surface that could be easily overlooked. The man fascinated me.
"Look Bella," Edward said a few moments after expressing his gratitude at the reprieve I'd given. "The thing is, I get that you're dealing with a lot of things right now and I get that we're doing a movie together and I get that you're still in some sort of relationship with your maybe ex. I understand all of the reasons why what I'm about to say is a really bad idea, but I just need to say it."
I looked met his gaze and tried to remain completely calm and receptive for whatever he had to get out – even if I was panicking a little bit about him suddenly telling me that he'd made a huge mistake and what happened between us should never have happened. I knew that he wouldn't have prefaced a declaration like that by telling me he 'liked' me, but I was, after all, still a 19 year-old girl and irrationality was a familiar part of my life.
"I want to see whether we'd be as fantastic together as something more as we are when we're just friends," Edward finally admitted. "I don't want to be a complication in your life Bella, but I do want to be something more than the co-star and the friend."
"You are Edward," I insisted without even being aware that my lips were forming those words until I heard them out there. I think both Edward and I were rather shocked by that admission. I wasn't surprised by the sentiment because I'd known for some time that my relationship with Edward was absolutely nothing like my relationship with my other friends – male or female – but I was surprised that it had come out of my mouth so readily.
I didn't know whether it was necessarily the best thing to say or the best time to say it, but when I saw the hope and happiness expressed on Edward's face, I didn't care anymore. He deserved to know that it wasn't just him in whatever this thing between us was. I may not have been able to give him – or myself – any solid answers about some of the most important questions between us, but I could give him something.
I stood up from my chair and walked around so that I was standing in front of him, blocking the coffee table and our beers from view. In a reversal of our norm, it was me who had to lean down to be face to face with Edward this time. I raised my hand to feel the stubble on his jaw that was required for the film and looked at him squarely in the eyes, revelling in the fact that they were a dark forest green instead of the sapphire blue that had been staring back at me all day. "You are something so much more Edward."
Tuesday morning at work was a nightmare of epic proportions for everyone who had the misfortune of being there. I was in before Edward this morning because I had some early scenes to shoot with Ben – or at least that's what I thought was going to be happening. Instead the happy, excited mood that I'd been in since mine and Edward's understanding of sorts the night previously vanished completely when I walked into Sue's office and found James Wilde sitting there with a very pleased smile on his face.
"Bella, you're here!" Sue exclaimed when I walked into the room.
"Well you sent for me," I replied, feeling tense because I could feel James' eyes raking all over my body before coming to a stop at my breasts. Maybe I would have understood why his eyes would have been drawn there if I hadn't been wearing a god damn hooded sweatshirt that was three sizes too big for me and hid every bump and curve. I rolled my eyes at him when he finally looked back up at my face, but all he did in reply was wink at me. The man was a walking fucking cliché and he wasn't even ashamed of it.
Sue gestured for me to sit down, but I shook my head because it would bring me in far too close proximity with James Wilde. Even before I met him and experienced what he was like first hand, I knew that James was not the sort of guy that I could get on with. He reminded me far too much of Kyle and the group of people he had surrounding him – too immersed in the lifestyle and the hype to care much about the work and the really important people in your life.
"Ben had some bad news last night Bella," Sue explained when it was clear that I wasn't going to sit down.
"Oh my god, is he okay? What happened?"
Sue was the one who shook her head this time. "It's not really my place to give you any details, but what I can say is that Ben's gone back home and doesn't know how long he'll be there so we've had to replace him."
It took me a while to connect the dots of Ben being replaced and James' presence because I was genuinely worried about Ben, who was one of the few people on set that I trusted and would willingly spend time with when we weren't shooting. I hoped he was okay, though by the sounds of it something damn serious had happened – three months was a long time to be gone and the studio would not have let him out of the contract without good reason. However, once Sue's words infiltrated my anxiety for the well-being of my ex-cast mate, I understood why James was sitting there looking like the cat that got the fucking canary.
"You've got to be kidding me?" I couldn't help the words as they rushed from my mouth. Going from Ben to James was like going from Mercury to Pluto – literally worlds apart.
James laughed whilst Sue raised an eyebrow in surprise, no doubt at the venom in my voice after we'd just been talking about Ben's problems – whatever they may have been. She obviously thought that I was still talking about Ben.
"Is this impromptu meeting with James so that you can introduce me to Ben's replacement?" I asked as an explanation.
I didn't need Sue's verbal confirmation to know that I was right because I could see James' arrogant smirk getting bigger from the corner of my eye. I couldn't believe that Sue anyone would think that James was a good replacement for Ben. This had to be because someone at the studio wanted the attention that James' name would bring to the film; they wanted the inches in the printed media because it would generate even more anticipation and excitement for the film. I didn't think that James' presence on set would be a positive one, but there was nothing I could do about it without sounding like a bitch trying to throw my weight around the set. Not that I had that much weight anyway, not against a bunch of suits most likely blinded by the dollar signs in front of their eyes.
"James is going to need some time to prepare so we'll have to postpone the scenes that you were supposed to be shooting with Ben until next week and push some of those scenes forward," Sue carried on explaining. "I'll tell everyone else about it when they arrive for the emergency meeting. I just thought you two should formally meet since you're going to have the most scenes together and you're going to need some time to get to know each other."
"I don't think James and I really need to spend too much time together," I disagreed. "We're both professionals and I'm sure we'll be able to create the right kind of relationship when the time comes to film our scenes. I mean I'm sure he'd like to meet the rest of the cast as soon as possible."
Sue gave me a strange look and I knew she was questioning my rather strange and aloof behaviour towards the newest member of our cast, but she wouldn't call me out on it with James here and I was pretty sure he would be here longer than she needed me to be there, so I stood my ground, kept my face neutral and just looked right back at her. She finally looked back over at James and started talking to the both of us again about how the rest of the day was going to be proceeding in light of the sudden, forced change in plans. I was only there for another 10 minutes before Sue let me get back to prepare for a scene that I had with Jessica and Jane, which shouldn't have been being filmed until this afternoon. I wondered when everyone was supposed to be getting in for the big cast change reveal. There was no doubt some very pissed off actors who'd had their beauty sleep interrupted by the shrill ringing of a phone this morning. The set was surely going to be a magical place to be around today.
Edward would be one of the people that they'd dragged out of bed far earlier than he had anticipated being needed. It didn't escape my notice that the thought of Edward made me smile. I could feel my lips spreading involuntarily and I rolled my eyes at how ridiculous I was being; he was still just Edward. But even that thought made me smile wider because as I was beginning to realise 'just Edward' was the best kind. A small corner section of my brain was telling me that I shouldn't be feeling this good over something that was going to bring so many complications for the both of us, but it was drowned out by the overwhelmingly larger part of my brain that was telling me to just let myself be happy in whatever was going on. After all, I was only 19 and my life shouldn't be full of complications and hard decisions. Jake and I weren't married and Edward and I weren't even really dating. We were just...we were exploring and basking in the fact that it was okay for us to be completely honest with each other and ourselves. Well, at least when we were by ourselves anyway.
Although our 'talk' the night before had been interrupted by more bouts of our lips being otherwise occupied, Edward and I did reach some sort of agreement as to how to proceed with what was happening between us; what had been happening between us for far longer than either one of us cared to admit actually. We'd agreed to be open to the idea of pursuing a relationship with the other one without forcing anything to happen. There was still a lot to talk about, still a lot of people, feelings and situations to occur, but we weren't rushing into anything and we wanted to just keep everyone else out of it until we could figure everything out together. Still as much as we didn't want anything else to intrude on something we couldn't yet define, there was someone else besides me and Edward that I had to consider in all of this – Jacob.
I needed to talk to Jacob, but before I could do that I had to figure out what I wanted to say to him. I knew now that we couldn't carry on in this relationship limbo that we had put ourselves in – it wasn't fair to either of us. I couldn't deny the attraction I had for Edward and I couldn't ignore the fact that I didn't want to wonder what it would be like to pursue it, I actually wanted to experience it. However, I also knew that I didn't want to be the girl who held onto her ex because she was scared of not being in a relationship. Not that this was the reason that I hadn't yet completely ended my relationship with Jacob, not entirely anyway. I mean I guess a part of me was scared of being without the comfort and safety that my relationship with Jake provided. After all, he'd been with me through my late teenage years, which was a tough time for anyone, let alone someone who had stopped speaking to her mother and was trying to prove herself to be a serious player in a world dominated by adults. I owed Jacob a lot, but that wasn't a reason to hold on to a romantic relationship that no longer seemed to be right for me, for us.
Looking back at the last few months of my relationship with Jacob as objectively as I could (which, admittedly was not really that objectively at all), I failed to see how he could have been really happy in it. We weren't really having problems, not outwardly anyway, it was just that we were absolutely no longer on the same page so to speak. The moving house incident was just one example of how far out of synch we had been getting; Jacob was ready to move forward, wanted to move forward and I was still standing stock still trying to figure out my place in the blurring reality around me.
It wasn't until I met Edward that everything stopped becoming just a whirring mass of colour and noise. I finally got that it was okay to be confused and to re-think where you were going. I understood that it was okay to be unsure and there was no one else that was demanding for me to have all the answers to life except myself. Talking to Edward about everything from the most mundane things to some of the most important moments in both our lives allowed me to put things into perspective. Edward made me feel as if it was normal to look at your life and ask why you were doing the things you were doing and what it was you were getting from it all.
I knew it wasn't fair to compare my years long relationship with Jacob to the new developments between Edward and I, but I had very limited experience with guys and relationships, so when I tried to contextualise my feelings for Edward using past knowledge, there was only my relationship with Jacob that I could draw from. Jacob understood who I was when I was 15, but I didn't feel as if he still did. It wasn't his fault. If anything, it was completely mine because sometimes I looked in the mirror and didn't really know if I knew myself anymore. Yet it felt like when I was with Edward, he saw me, he knew me, he understood me. My mind had been rebelling at these thoughts for weeks, months even because I couldn't really comprehend them or explain them to myself. I knew if I gave voice to them, whoever heard them would scoff at the teenage romantic drama tone they had, but I couldn't express the things that Edward made me feel in any other way.
I wasn't ending my relationship with Jacob for Edward (something that I had made clear to Edward last night). I wasn't going to make the undoubtedly huge mistake of jumping from one relationship to the other. Quite apart from anything else, both Jake and Edward deserved far more respect than that. I was ending my relationship with Jacob because I didn't think it was working for either of us anymore. He needed someone who could move forward with him, who could visualise the same future he could and that person was no longer me. I couldn't offer Jacob the same kind of support and comfort that he deserved from his significant other; all I could offer him was confusion and disappointment. It was just a shame that I would be hurting him in an effort to prevent both of us from wasting our time on a relationship that had run its course.
It made me unbearably sad to think that my once thriving relationship with Jacob had come to such an end. A couple of years ago when Jacob gave me a bracelet with the infinity symbol dangling from it as a promise for the future, I honestly thought I would be spending my life with Jacob Black. Up until probably 6 months ago, I envisioned Jake and myself trying to balance our careers with the family that we would most probably have. It wasn't without a trace of regret that I acknowledged the unlikelihood of that happening now. I was a different person and when I looked towards the future, I could barely see what I where I wanted to be, never mind picture who was with me there.
There was a knock on my trailer door that jostled me out of my slightly melancholy thoughts and Alice's face appeared from behind the door when I called for the person knocking to come in. Alice gave me a small smile in greeting when she stepped into the relatively small space that was my home away from the apartment. The smile was forced and her eyes were tight with the effort of it. I looked at her apprehensively, sensing that something was very wrong with her, but not wanting to bring it up without her first drawing attention to it. I thought that she was probably here to talk about it, but it wasn't exactly my place to drag it out of her.
"Do you know why Sue called everyone in this morning?" Alice asked when she'd taken a seat at the small table across from me. "Someone called me about forty minutes ago and apparently they gave Edward just as much notice." She must have noticed the utter shock on my face at her mentioning Edward because she carried right on with an explanation. "We shared a car on the way in this morning and he looked rather like he just rolled out of bed."
I ignored the visual that my mind conjured up as Alice said this; I didn't need to have those thoughts about Edward displayed unknowingly on my face as Alice, of all people, sat there to witness it. I forced my mind to focus on what Alice was asking me. "Um, yeah actually I do. Sue's announcing a sudden change in casting this morning."
The surprise on Alice's face must have been the same as mine when she'd mentioned Edward. "Who? Why?"
I shook my head. "I don't think I'm supposed to give you details, but you'll know soon enough anyway. Sue will probably call the meeting when everyone's here."
Alice nodded and silence fell around us again, but she didn't leave and obviously she wasn't just here to talk about why she had been called hours earlier than she was originally scheduled to be in. Finally after about 10 more minutes of silence interspersed with attempts at small-talk that encompassed everything from traffic to the weather (yeah, exciting, I know), Alice came out with what she had actually come to talk to me about. Unsurprisingly it was about Jasper and I understood some of the tension that she was carrying around.
"I asked Jasper if he was hiding something from me," Alice told me after a period of expectant silence. "I came back to the apartment after our talk last night and just outright asked him. I couldn't help myself. He was sitting there and the words just came out of my mouth before I could stop them."
I nodded, encouraging her to go on, though I doubted she would stop now.
"I fed him some bullshit about just getting a 'funny feeling' that he was keeping something from me and he just chuckled and assured me that nothing was going on for me to worry about."
Alice looked anguished as she spoke and I understood why; Jasper hadn't actually denied hiding something from her and she would definitely have picked up on that. He had offered her words of comfort whilst completely not answering her question and given the state that Alice was in, it wasn't enough for her. If anything, it probably added to her suspicions that he couldn't give her a straight answer. For me, I kind of felt a little relieved that Jasper hadn't just outright lied to her when she asked him a direct question, though I could never explain to Alice why she should be comforted by his answer without revealing that I knew more about the situation than I had let on.
"He spent the rest of the night making light-hearted conversation and avoiding anything serious," Alice continued. "Bella I really think Jasper is hiding something huge from me and I'm going insane wondering whether he has a family tucked away in some part of the country somewhere."
I had to interrupt her to defend Jasper, which I didn't think I would have been doing given that I knew he was hiding something huge from everyone. "Alice no," I told her. "I know that you're mind is going to conjure the worst possible scenario, but don't go there. You have to believe that you were drawn to Jasper because you saw something good in him. I don't think he's a type of guy to lead a double life like that."
Alice looked at me intently for a few moments, probably trying to decide whether I actually believed what I was saying instead of just trying to offer her words of comfort when I could see that she was very distressed over the whole Jasper situation. "I've just never been in this situation before Bella," she confessed to me. "I've never fallen so fast and so deep for a guy like I have with Jasper. I feel like he could really be it for me, you know? And I know it sounds really corny and cheesy and cliché – so much so that I actually wouldn't be surprised if you excused yourself to vomit right now." We both grinned at that comment. It was nice to see that she could still make jokes. "I'm just worried that I've gotten so used to pushing myself away from people that I've come full circle and I'm pushing myself towards someone that isn't even really all that available."
I shook my head and told her the only thing I felt I knew to be true about Jasper Whitlock. "Alice the guy is about as into you as you are into him. He's crazy about you. I don't know too much about him, but I have at least seen that much." My mind flashed back to the sincerity and desperation in his eyes as he pleaded for me to keep the secret that he'd been in New York for a lot longer than he'd let her know. I didn't know exactly what Jasper was hiding, what he was up to or what this woman, Maria, had to do about it, but I trusted that he really did care about Alice.
As Alice breathed deeply and tried to recollect herself, I hoped to god that I didn't prove to be a bad judge of character.
The meeting was, in a word, uncomfortable. In two words really uncomfortable. Sue had made the announcement of Ben's sudden departure before bringing James into the room like a show pony and James was only too happy to stride in and have his chance to perform in front of a room full of people. I wondered briefly what he'd been like before the spotlight had hit him square in the face, blinding him of everything else but the need to stay within it. Had he always been so keen for the attention and the praise? Is that why he had wanted to go into the business in the first place? Or had he actually loved the art and the craft itself? I had met a few people in the industry who had started off loving the work and ended up placing more importance on the fame and adulation of strangers. It was a sad thing to see and I only hoped that I would not end up like that in the years to come.
Eyes had flicked over to Angela in all the time that Sue was explaining Ben's present and future absence from the set and I felt for her. On the one hand she must have been utterly embarrassed by the blatant curiosity directed at her from her not so subtle cast mates. On the other hand, she was probably worried about Ben and whatever was serious enough for him to have been called away so urgently and in such an abrupt manner. James' addition to the cast seemed to excite some people and puzzle others because he didn't seem like the kind of guy who would take a role in a film where he would most definitely not be the star. The role of Charles Winters, whilst being an important one, was not a big one. He had possibly three big scenes in the entire film and made appearances in two others so for him to be accepting this role after auditioning for – and failing to land – the lead role was a curious move. Perhaps all the bad press he'd been getting lately had negatively affected his career prospects. Or maybe his 'people' were trying to get him to do more serious, varied roles where he wasn't always playing the cliché bad guy.
Sue ended the meeting with the hope that everyone would work together in this time of upheaval to make sure that everything went as smoothly as it possibly could. She seemed quite happy with James' addition to the cast, though I really didn't understand why. Sue could usually see through anyone's bullshit and she wasn't easily won over, which made her a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Yet there she was, chatting to James and looking as if she was hanging on his every word. It was disturbing and I hoped that she was only acting that way to make him comfortable.
"You don't seem overly happy with the new casting choice," Edward observed.
He had been sitting a few seats down from me in the meeting and there were a few times when he'd caught me rolling my eyes as James spoke to the room. He had raised an eyebrow in question at my behaviour, but I obviously couldn't give him an answer when we were still in the meeting room. It wouldn't be very professional of me to interrupt James to tell Edward the reasons I found him a little hard to stomach in front of people we were supposed to be working with for the next two months.
"That's a very polite way to say it," I told him. "I'm actually flabbergasted that they would cast James Wilde at all on this film, never mind as a replacement for Ben. The two of them couldn't be further apart."
"I take it there's no love lost between the two of you? You're kind of giving off a huge wave of hostility right now and I refuse to believe it's directed at me because last night you certainly didn't seem hostile."
I heard the smirk in his voice before I could turn around and see it for myself. Edward's eyes were crinkled in amusement, but his irises were dark with the memories of just how friendly I had been during our 'talk' the previous night. Hostility, then, was definitely the last thing on my mind. I felt my own lips twist as I tried to hide a mirroring smile at his words. Edward shy and unsure was adorable and endearing; Edward confident and teasing was exciting and desirable.
I felt myself take a few steps towards him almost involuntarily, my fingers itching to compare what his smirk felt like versus what it looked like. However, the voices of the other members of the cast and crew carrying in the space around us reminded me that we were not alone and it would certainly raise a few eyebrows (as well as questions) if I just started to man-handle Edward, my friend and co-star.
So, instead of touching him inappropriately, I answered Edward's question about my dislike of James. I kind of had a feeling that Edward would understand where I was coming from, though I certainly didn't want him to form an idea of who James was just based on what I told him. Edward expressed genuine surprise when I told him that James had initially auditioned for the part of Rob and had been refused it. It still seemed as if Edward didn't think he was the best person for the job even though I had told him time and time again that I didn't think anyone could do a better job. I wasn't just saying it either. I genuinely thought that Edward was made to play this part and it wasn't just because I found it very easy to be enamoured with him on screen. I honestly believed that Edward, as a person, embodied all the qualities of the character that made him interesting, relatable, unforgettable and unique. Edward had the soul of an artist like Rob and it would have been a waster for James to play that part. Well, in my opinion anyway.
When I told Edward about how James had tried to slip me tongue in his audition, he made some comment about being glad he kept his in check. I laughed along with him, but briefly wondered whether or not I would have felt the same revulsion if it had been Edward. I decided that no, I probably wouldn't have been physically repulsed by the act, but I would have definitely been uncomfortable with it and would have let him know in no uncertain terms that I was. It was completely inappropriate for James to have done it when he had only just met me and the script didn't call for anything like that. It would have been completely inappropriate for Edward to do the same thing and I would have thought very differently of him had he done it, even if I did find him far more attractive than James Wilde.
We had reached his trailer in the time it had taken for me to explain why I disliked James to such a degree that it was actually palpable. It was the first time that I'd been in Edward's trailer but it's resemblance to my own made me feel as if I'd been there several times, so I didn't exactly wait for an invitation to take a seat in the same spot as I would have done were we in my trailer. Edward looked at me and raised his eyebrows, but I just shrugged and carried on pretending like I didn't notice the fact that we were now alone in a private location for the first time since he left my apartment last night. I perused the generically beige walls of the space, feigning indifference to the fact that the trail Edward's eyes were making up my legs, body, arms across my face and to my lips were leaving goose bumps in their wake. It felt as if he were passing the tip of a feather lightly all over me and the way it made me want to squirm in the most wonderful of ways was tantalising.
The shift in the atmosphere between me and Edward every time we were alone in a room together now was so ridiculously obvious, it almost became a tangible thing. It was as if the air was being permeated with attraction, lust, wonderment and tension and every inhale I took just drew all of that into me, mixing the feelings coming from him with my own. It was maddening, really it was. A very significant part of me wanted to explore my very physical reaction to Edward in a very physical manner, but I just couldn't be the girl that slept with her co-star when she was still in a relationship. I didn't want to be that girl no matter how much I wanted, in this very second, to pull Edward to me and plead with him to just ease the ache that I know for certain wasn't just being felt on my end.
I bit my lip at the thought, trying not to picture that very moment in detail worthy of being projected on a high-definition screen.
I heard Edward groan from my right and saw him run both of his hands over his face. He was looking frustrated as hell and I found it both comforting and amusing that I wasn't being the only one tortured with the heavy tension. "Why is it that ever since yesterday, I can't be in the same room alone with you without wanting to..."
He trailed off, leaving me to fill in the gaps using my very active (and rather sexually charged) imagination. The fire in his eyes as he said the words had me believing that his thoughts weren't too far from my own. It didn't exactly help diffuse the tension any.
I knew exactly what he meant though. Ever since I had known what it was like to kiss Edward (and in return be kissed by Edward) – and I mean really kiss Edward – I seemed to be in the mind that any time we were alone and not touching in some way was a complete waste of time and opportunity. I guess that because I had, for so long, stopped myself from seeing Edward as anything other than a friend and co-worker (albeit an attractive and desirable friend and co-worker), now that I had broken through that dam, everything had come spilling out. I didn't want to stop myself from acting on every single impulse to play with his fingers when his hand was near mine. I didn't want to control the urge to kiss him when he was busy being all self-deprecating and stumbling over his words. Now that Edward and I had given ourselves – and each other, no doubt – permission to just give in and see where all this was leading, it was kind of hard to stop.
"It's a little bit insane right?" I agreed, laughing to try and lighten the situation so that I wouldn't tell him to just do it. I didn't want to make it any harder for either of us to take this development in our relationship slowly, baby step after baby step.
Edward nodded in agreement and chuckled. "Maybe we shouldn't be in confined spaces alone with each other for a while," he suggested. "Just until we can control our more...er...our baser urges."
I could do nothing to prevent the almost hysterical giggle coming out of my mouth as Edward's lips wrapped around the words 'baser urges'. I was laughing to keep myself from groaning at the flashes of naked skin that presented themselves to me upon hearing those two words in Edward's voice. I needed to get a grip. I couldn't be this sexually charged around him and still be keeping a distance due to the situation we had found ourselves in. I needed to find the balance between how we were before and where we thought we may be going in the future. By the look on Edward's face, we both needed to find this balance.
I couldn't remember the last night I'd had a full 8 hours sleep. Hell, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had 6 hours of sleep, never mind the full 8. I thought that I had time to finally get a decent night's sleep because I didn't need to be onset until lunch time today, but that thought was slashed when a pillow landed on my face accompanied by Rosalie's voice calling my name. It took me several seconds to realise that Rosalie was calling my name for a reason and that she was currently explaining that very reason to me.
"Edward seriously get the hell up unless you want me to pour water all over you," she threatened.
It took monumental effort to open my eyes and I wondered vaguely whether or not Rosalie had glued my eyelids together as a practical joke. When I did finally see her standing over me though, she was holding a phone out to me still in her pyjamas, looking pissed off and very inconvenienced. I guess the phone had woken her up. I didn't say anything as I accepted the phone, mostly because my brain was working far too slowly for me to formulate the words that Rosalie would want to hear.
"Hello?" I mumbled, knowing I sounded like I'd been yanked from the depths of sleep (probably because I had and my dream had been a damn good one too).
"Edward, it's Emily," the voice on the other end of the line announced. I tried to place the name, but I honestly couldn't remember if I knew an Emily, so I just stayed silent and waited for her to explain who she was and why she was calling me.
"You're going to be needed on set by 8 this morning instead of 11," Emily continued in a clipped, rushed manner. "The car will be at your apartment complex in about 15 minutes so I suggest you hurry up and get ready. Bye Edward."
The dial tone was already sounding before I finally realised that Emily was Sue's assistant and I had been given the early morning call because for some reason, something had changed and I was being called into work 4 hours early. Shit. I was out of bed and in the shower faster than I could properly form those very thoughts in my head. I didn't even have time to wonder about what could have changed because really, it could have been anything from the weather to availability of a particular location. I had time to quickly apologise to Rosalie before I flew out of the apartment, down the stairs and to the front of the complex where Alice Brandon was just opening the door to the car obviously sent by the studio.
Alice and I had avoided being alone with each other at all costs, knowing that one of us (and by that I mean me because I wouldn't hit a woman) wouldn't survive the confrontation without physical wounds. I briefly wondered whether they would send a second car for me, but when the driver saw me and smiled, I knew that I was expected to climb into the same non-descript black car as Alice. Today was not exactly getting off to the best of starts. Which was a shame because last night had definitely ended on a high note.
A very high note.
Bella was in front of me reassuring me that I wasn't just an added complication in her life. I felt her fingers run back and forth along my jaw to emphasise the sentiment of her words, as if she felt that if her words wouldn't convince me that she meant it, her touch would. She wasn't exactly wrong either, but even without the feel of her fingers on my skin, the look in her eyes and the emotion behind her words would definitely have convinced me. It felt absolutely amazing for Bella to tell me that my telling her that I wanted to be with her, that I wanted to see if whatever was going on between us went further than friendship and physical attraction wasn't just an unwelcome inconvenience in her life.
I had been on edge earlier as I stood on the other side of her door waiting for Bella to answer it. After five minutes had gone by and she still hadn't opened the door, I was beginning to worry that she just didn't want to speak to me; that she was ignoring the knocking because she no longer trusted me to be alone with her without trying to assault her. As soon as the words crossed my mind, I knew they were ridiculous, but it didn't help fight the despair I felt as I made my way back to my own apartment. I was so caught up in self-pity that I didn't see Bella turning the corner until I had knocked her down. Brilliant. Very smooth of me.
It was rather ironic that I'd been going to her apartment to speak to her about earlier on today but when I was in front of her, with an opportunity to say something about what had happened, all I could do was stutter out incomplete sentences. I sounded like I hadn't yet learned how to construct sentences with the words that I knew and I was about to just give it up for a loss and try again tomorrow when Bella actually suggested that we talk in her apartment. I didn't know what the hell I was going to say to her and I didn't know what I wanted to hear from her in return. I didn't want to apologise for what I did that morning because I wasn't really sorry at all and I would do it again. However, I didn't want her to think that I thought I had the right to do it again, or that I thought I had the right to have done it in the first place.
I spent the entire walk back to her apartment trying very hard to keep my hands to myself and my mind off the fact that I could reach out, grab Bella and be in exactly the same sort of situation as we had found ourselves in this morning. As I followed her, I couldn't keep my eyes from wandering over the curves of her form that her clothes showcased, remembering what it was like to have those curves pressed against me, to have my hands run over them. I had to swallow and avert my eyes quite a few times as I walked behind Bella. I should have been taking the time to come up with something great to say to her that would encompass everything I had felt towards her for months now. I wanted to let her in on the confusion and the yet the clarity that she gave me. I wanted to share the very complex knots my mind had made of the situation we found ourselves in with the hope that maybe, even if she couldn't help me untie them, she could at least share in my bewilderment over them. Instead, I was having not so innocent thoughts about her, so much so that when she closed the door of her apartment, I couldn't stop myself from pressing her up against the wall and preventing both of us from the actual act of talking.
Instead of Bella slapping me and telling me to get the hell out of her apartment and her life, she was right here telling me things that I didn't know I needed to hear so badly. Or well, maybe I did know how badly I needed to hear them, but I had refused to acknowledge the fact that I knew. See...knots. I brought my hand up to hers, which was still stroking the growth of hair on my jaw, mimicking the pattern that she was drawing on my skin.
"This is just..." Bella started, stopped and then took a deep breath. "I never expected you Edward," she told me. "I didn't think that I'd do this job and meet someone like you who...who just...who sees me as the person I want to be already when I didn't even know I wanted to be that person." Bella stopped and shook her head. "I'm not even making any sense."
She started to move her hand away, probably because she was flustered and wanted to move away, but I didn't want her to move away. I understood exactly what she was trying to say because I felt the same way when I was around her. I felt as if the person that Bella saw in me was the person that I had always worked at being and yet never even knew I was trying to be. It was a strange sensation and it wasn't as if she had built an image of me herself and was asking me to be that person. It wasn't like that at all. It was just that sometimes it felt as if Bella knew me in a way that I didn't even think people could know me. It was so hard to explain, but it was a relief to know that I wasn't the only one feeling confused by whatever this was.
I forced Bella to look back at me by tugging on the hand that I still hadn't let go. "I understand Bella," I told her. "I honestly get it."
Bella's body relaxed in relief and she smiled as she sat down on the coffee table in front of me, making sure to move my empty beer bottle back so that she didn't knock it over or sit on it. "I don't know what it is about you Edward," Bella confessed after looking down at our joined hands for a while. "I don't know what it is about us." She looked up at me, her eyes full of wonder with a hint of confusion and anxiety, but not a trace of doubt. "I just...I think we owe it to ourselves to find out if...to see whether or not..."
She didn't need to finish her sentence for me to understand what she was trying to say and I could feel my face split into a grin that I was sure could have rivalled the Cheshire Cat's. Bella was in front of me telling me that she thought there was something between us worth exploring. She didn't hate me for kissing her this morning and she certainly didn't hate me for kissing her just a few minutes ago. I was not alone in whatever it was that I was feeling for her. After the afternoon and evening of dread and doubt that I had experienced, she couldn't have been saying any better words right now.
Before I could second guess myself and before Bella could truly explain what she meant by wanting to see where this strangely brilliant dynamic would take us, I pulled her towards me and once again our 'talk' was delayed by much more pleasant activities.
I left Bella's apartment very reluctantly at midnight, knowing that she had an early call in the morning. However, I had been so wired that I had gone down to the gym in the building to work out the excess energy that I couldn't yet work out with Bella. We hadn't really agreed that we would date because that seemed a little contrived and forced. Besides, Bella still had a boyfriend to break up with before she could be considered available to date and even when she and Jacob finally, officially ended their romantic relationship, I didn't want to be the rebound guy. Instead, we had agreed to just let things progress with us as they naturally would. We wouldn't put pressure on ourselves by coming up with a label and so as far as anyone else was concerned, nothing had changed in our relationship.
However, privately, so much had changed. It seemed that in an effort to keep myself from wanting to be with Bella, I had blocked out a lot of stuff and prevented myself from noticing just how enticing the woman was. Once I had broken through that wall (which had been getting a little less stable the past couple of weeks anyway), there was no stopping the barrage of things I found about Bella to be attracted to or turned on by or just thought was plain adorable. I left her apartment very frustrated, knowing that our physical relationship would not be progressing much past the teenage making out stage until she was completely single and free at the very least. Really, it shouldn't have even progressed that far, but apparently I had no self-control and no morals these days.
I knew that I should have been feeling guilty about the fact that I was kissing a girl who technically still had a boyfriend (a fact that Carmen would have gone ape shit over). I knew that I should have been feeling guilty about telling Bella that I wanted to explore a relationship beyond friendship with her whilst she still had ties to Jacob, but I didn't. I actually couldn't find it in me to feel guilty. Well, not guilty in the sense that I owed it to Jacob to not go after his sort-of-girlfriend anyway. I should have. I absolutely should have because contrary to what the readers of 'Famous' now believed, I was not the sort of guy to even want to break up a relationship. There were selfish reasons for this as well as moral ones, namely that I didn't want to come second in a relationship. I'd had enough of feeling second best because of my father and I didn't exactly seek out that same feeling from my romantic relationships.
I guess I felt a little bit of guilt for putting Bella in a situation where she would have to say goodbye to someone I didn't know if she was ready to say goodbye to yet. I kind of felt like I was forcing her hand, so to speak, but then I caught myself thinking that very thing and almost laughed out loud at my conceit. I doubted very much that Bella's decision to really end things with Jacob centred on me and my thinking it did made me sound like a self-important asshole. Bella had her own mind, could make her own decisions and she wasn't the type of girl – woman – to be so easily influenced. Hell, out of the two of us, I would have to say that I was more easily influenced by her than she by me. Part of me hoped that our evolving relationship did have some impact on her decision – that was probably my male ego at work – and I guess that was probably where my small bit of guilt about the entire situation stemmed from.
When I went back to my apartment last night, I had thought that today was going to be a rather great day. I had a late start, was going to be spending the entire day with Bella (even if it was at work) and then tonight, Bella and I were going out to talk some more. It wasn't a date – she'd been quite clear on that. Rather, we both decided that there were other things that we needed to talk about and that we couldn't do that if we weren't in a room full of people. I was going to spend some time in the morning looking at places where we could talk privately and yet still be with enough people to prevent us from using the time to do what we'd spent a majority of last night doing. However, as I climbed into the back of the black car and saw the surprise on Alice's face, I had to re-think my stance on today being such a good day. The last time I unexpectedly saw Alice first thing in the morning, she had left my cheek stinging and marked for days.
"Edward," Alice acknowledged as the car started to pull out onto the main road.
"Alice," I said back. Obviously we would be winning prizes for great conversations any day now.
Alice nodded and then averted her eyes so that she could look at the window and avoid having to grasp for words to string together into something that passed for a conversation in normal society. I followed her lead, preferring to watch the crowds walking around the streets that we were blurring by. Well, blurring may have been a bit of an overstatement seeing as currently the traffic wasn't allowing us to build up enough speed for such visuals. I was wondering what Alice would say when she found out that Jacob and Bella had broken up completely instead of just being on a break. I knew that she was a good friend of Bella's nearly ex-boyfriend, but lately she'd been a pretty good friend of Bella's too. Would that change? Would the break-up cause her to choose sides? As much as I didn't particularly like Alice, I understood that she was at least a very loyal friend and even with her tendency to jump to conclusions because of that loyalty, I couldn't fault that quality in anyone.
It seemed as if Alice was a fiercely loyal friend to Jacob, much like Rosalie was to me, I guess. Jasper had explained to me that Jacob and Alice had some strange and interconnected history that she hadn't really expanded on. I wondered briefly whether they'd ever had a relationship, but even if they had it couldn't have been anything too serious seeing as they would only have been in their early teens. After all, Jacob and Bella had been together for nearly four years. It was a stab in the dark really because their complex history with each other could have been anything; after all my own history with Rosalie didn't involve any kind of romantic relationship on our part. I just hoped that whatever their history was, it wasn't filled with nearly as much heartache and angst as mine was with my best friend.
We had finally moved past the crippling traffic of central Manhattan and the view of the streets around us was finally beginning to be nothing but colourful blurs when Alice's voice called my name. I turned around to face her, making sure that I hadn't been hearing things. She was looking in my direction, but she wasn't looking directly at me. Instead Alice now seemed to be looking out of my window and taking deep breaths, as if she was steeling herself to say something rather major. I had a feeling this wasn't going to be good.
"You've known Jasper for a long time right?" she asked in a voice that was completely unlike her.
I had been right.
This wasn't going to be good. She wanted to talk about Jasper? Even if Alice and I had been on more cordial terms with each other, what on earth would make her think that I would be open to talking about one of my closest friends with his girlfriend? There were certain things that you didn't do to your friends and one of those things involved talking about them to their significant others when they didn't know about it and you weren't already friends with that significant other. Alice and I didn't really know each other so any conversation that we were going to have about Jasper would probably be her asking personal questions about him that I would not be at liberty to answer. I was pretty sure that my refusal to answer any such questions would only make our already strained relationship more so.
Like I said, it wasn't going to be good.
However, I had to actually acknowledge that I had heard her question and shrugged in response. "I don't know if you consider 8 months a long time, but I've known him for a while, yeah."
"8 months?" she asked, seemingly surprised by this. Had Jasper told her something different? Could I not even answer a simple question? I really needed to get the hell out of this conversation. "I got the impression that you'd known each other a lot longer."
I didn't say anything, already feeling like I had revealed too much information, though I had no idea what Alice was actually looking for nor what Jasper had told her. I didn't like the feeling of being questioned about my friend, but I acknowledged that it was probably Jasper that had brought this situation upon both Alice and I. She would not just randomly start asking me about her boyfriend unless he had given her reason to and apparently Jasper was giving a lot of people reasons to ask questions about him of late.
"Do you...I mean what's he...did he tell you anything about what he did before you knew him?" Alice asked, her eyes flicking from the window beyond my shoulder to the floor of the car. Although her hesitation at asking these questions was evident in the way that she was stumbling over her words, she seemed to be forcing herself to ask me anyway, which led me to believe that whatever it was she wanted was pretty important – to her at least.
"Alice why don't you just ask me whatever it is that you obviously want to ask me before this conversation gets any more uncomfortable for either of us," I said quite abruptly, surprising the both of us.
Alice finally lifted her face to meet my gaze and I noticed a flash of irritation cross it before she could change it to one of neutrality. She may have wanted to ask me something – and because of that she was trying to be less hostile – but she still obviously did not like me. I guess it was slightly comforting that some things didn't change.
Alice regarded me for a second before taking a deep breath and finally just saying what she had been wanting to since I got into the car with her. "I think Jasper's seeing someone else and not matter what our personal relationship is, I'd really appreciate it if you could tell me the truth because no one deserves to be lied to by someone they're...by someone they care about."
Okay then...well that was blunt and to the point. I had no doubt that Alice was going to inadvertently reveal that she was in love with Jasper, but caught herself just in time. I wondered very briefly what Jasper had done – or neglected to do – to cause this suspicion. Had he been pulling disappearing acts on her too? Or had she somehow found out about the fact that he'd been in New York for a week before she knew about it? However, the steady gaze of Alice's never left me and I was aware that the longer I took to answer, the more suspicious she was going to be.
The answer was simple really. "Jasper's not seeing anyone else," I told her honestly. "He's not that guy."
Even though I didn't know what it was Jasper had done to arouse suspicion about his fidelity, I could honestly say that the Jasper Whitlock I was friends with would not cheat on Alice; Jasper wouldn't cheat on anyone. As Alice nodded in silent acceptance of what I'd said, a small voice in the back of my mind told me that the Jasper Whitlock I knew apparently was not the full story of the man. Had I unknowingly lied to Alice? I hoped not. I hoped that my character judgement of my friend, whatever he may have been hiding, was correct because Alice was right; no one deserved to be deceived in that way by the person that they loved.
A/N: A little ominous of an ending no? Did someone cheat on Edward? Ha...no. The answer to that question is no, just in case you were wondering. This Edward doesn't have any relationship dramas of that kind. Edward and Bella...well, I suppose that because they did so much talking before now that they've allowed themselves to do other things, they can't help themselves. Still...some control would be nice, no? Maybe none of you agree with me and are taking their side in the matter. Oooh...and James is back...but what happened to Ben? This chapter can raise more potential questions than a 'Lost' episode...okay no, actually, no, it can't. The Ben thing isn't central to the story and will be explained away probably in the next chapter.
Anyway, than you all for reading my little (or extremely lengthy) story. Thank you to everyone that reviews. I really appreciate the kind words and encouragement...they make me smile.